Reporting by Ya Sainey Gaye, ChildFund The Gambia
Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we visit a ChildFund-supported community in The Gambia that is moving toward self-sufficiency.
Positive change has come to the Kololi community in the last two decades. Much of the credit is due to the Kololi Cluster, an industrious group of women supported in their entrepreneurial endeavors by the Kombo North Federation and ChildFund The Gambia. After an unsuccessful try with a tie-dye operation in the early 1990s, the women of Kololi Cluster settled on making soap and detergent to generate income for their families’ basic needs. The group enjoyed a moderate level of success, yet they were not making great strides forward economically.
In 1999, a ChildFund supporter donated a milling machine for the community’s use, under the direction of the Kololi Cluster. In turn, the community Alkalo (village chief) gave a portion of his land to house the machine.
Although the Kololi Cluster members did not know how to operate the mill, they were organized and had experience working together to run businesses. They were up for the task of operating a prized piece of heavy equipment for the benefit of the entire village.
In most cases, a milling machine equates food security for the community it serves. Dried crops, such as maize, millet, rice and couscous, are a principal part of the African diet and are needed year-round. The availability of a mill at the village level reduces household expenses (fewer trips to market) and provides a source of steady income.
Before the arrival of the milling machine, women in the village bore the burden of pounding the dried crops into meal. The work was time-consuming and physically demanding.
The Kololi Cluster organized a team to run the mill. In return for their time and labor, each cluster member receives incentives and a portion of the profits to pay their children’s school fees or to purchase other necessities. When a cluster member was in urgent need of a medical checkup, proceeds from the mill paid the cost. A community child with disabilities, whose family previously could not afford to educate him, is now going to school. When a community member’s house was damaged by torrential rains, the Kololi Cluster helped her rebuild.
The women of the Kololi Cluster have opened a bank account to save and manage the profits earned from operating the mill. With money in the bank, they are able to respond to the everyday and the urgent needs of cluster members, all the while increasing the community’s self-sufficiency.
by Jason Schwartzman, ChildFund Team Leader for Child & Youth Involvement
In preparation for ChildFund’s Youth Program Summit in India, we’ve been talking to youth around the world, trying to get inside their heads to understand how they see the future unfolding, starting with their inner circle of friends.
We ask them to think of and actually draw a “friend” — a peer, a relative, a neighbor — someone they know well. We encourage them to be realistic. In five years, what do they really think their friend’s life situation will be? Not what they hope, but what they predict. We give them drawing materials, a quiet space, and we see what happens.
Often they are optimistic, like this drawing from a young Native American woman in the United States, who says her friend will be, “outgoing, energetic, and a great person to be around. She’s really bright and understanding. There is never a dull moment when you’re with her. She’s just a true friend.”
Sometimes they are quite sad, as illustrated by this prediction by a young woman in Sierra Leone, “Mary is the name of my friend. She is 16 years old. Mary is crying because she is carrying a heavy load. She is a girl. Mary is presently in the street. In five year’s time, Mary will be dropped out from school. She will be a failure in life.”
Sometimes young people are hopeful and romantic, as this future scenario envisioned by a young man in Bolivia, “Arturo is 19 years old and completed school and a lawyer’s course. He now has a fixed job and has a girlfriend called Katerin who is a teacher. The two love each other a lot and they get on really well. They like to go on walks. They are expecting Arturo’s baby.”
In other instances they predict that a friend’s situation could be transformed, as in this drawing by a young man in The Gambia. He writes: “My friend’s name is Abas. He is 13 years old. He is a male. In 5 years times, I am seeing my friend as someone who will not prosper in future because he don’t study at home. These might lead him to fail his exam. I think he may get involve in drug abuse, he can be in jail, or physically weak or die. If he change his mind and study hard and be punctual in school, he can be at the University or may even be sponsor by the president to go and read for further studies. He can therefore contribute to the nation development and build up a good family in future.”
In the next blog, we’ll take a look at the resources young people say they need to be successful.
Every 30 seconds, a child dies from malaria. In The Gambia, as well as in many other countries, ChildFund is educating children about this deadly disease, and how it can be prevented. Meet Lamine and Binta.
by Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund Africa Regional Communications Manager
Water is a big challenge in our region; so I find myself thinking a lot about World Water Day, commemorated each year on March 22. In Africa, people travel long distances and stand in long queues to get water. Sometimes the water runs out before those in line can fill their containers. They return home empty handed. A lot of time is wasted waiting to get water — time that could have been spent doing other things.
In some areas even if there is water, it’s unsafe for drinking or cooking. So I thought of sharing with you my visit to The Gambia, where I had the opportunity to see the water pyramid, operated by the Ding Ding Bantaba Child and Family Support Association, a ChildFund affiliate.
Sibanor village is the capital of the Foni Bintang Karanai District in the Western Division. As the capital, it is also the commerce center for several satellite villages as well as many in the Cassamance region. Sibanor is rapidly increasing in size and now has a population of 4,000.
For years, Sibanor lacked clean and accessible water for human consumption. Most of the community’s wells produce brackish water not fit for drinking or preparing food. Nor is the water ideal for laundry, as it does not readily form lather with soap.
As the population has increased, so has the water problem. Because only three hand pumps were producing good-tasting water, residents of the newest settlements started traveling some distances to nearby villages to obtain water.
Those living around the ChildFund-supported Early Childhood Development center fetched water from the covered hand pump well in the village. The rest shared the remaining two pumps resulting in long queues. Women lined up around these pumps as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 10 p.m., waiting for the overused wells to refill.
For years, community leaders tried different options to get clean water but without success. Some families resorted to using unsafe drinking water from locally dug and uncovered wells that had better taste. The main borehole was re-dug in 2001, but, unfortunately, it produced the same poor-quality water. The community endured 20 years with no improvement in the water supply. A radical shift in approach was needed.
In a bid to address the situation, Ding Ding Bantaba Child and Family Support Association, working with ChildFund and the Dutch organisation Aqua Aero Water System BV, succeeded in getting a water project proposal funded by the World Bank.
This grant has built a water pyramid, which consists of a borehole and a rainwater collection system that provides clean and sufficient water (up to 5,000 liters per day) to serve the entire population of Sibanor and surrounding villages.
This innovative water system also provides distilled water for hospital use and for battery refilling. Testing has proven the water to be the cleanest and safest drinking source in the country based on national and international standards.
ChildFund played a role in negotiating the grant project and provided on-site supervision as the water pyramid was constructed. We worked closely with community members to engage them in the project and involve them in carrying out the nontechnical aspects of construction.
Today, ChildFund continues to monitor the viability of the community-operated enterprise and ensure water-quality controls remain in place.
Numerous sponsored children and their families in Sibanor are now benefitting from clean water. It’s a victory to celebrate on World Water Day.
Guest post by Fatoumatta, age 20, The Gambia
My dream in life is to be an economist and a child activist.
Being a child activist has been a dream since I was a kid. I had this dream because I surveyed life and the environment, and I came to a conclusion that children in particular have been traumatized in all aspects of their lives.
So that is why I decided that I have to be a child activist — to at least fight the issues that are happening in our environment. I’m talking about a child not being sent to school or being raped, and how those things are affecting children in our environment.
So I deem it necessary to be a person to at least make their voices to be heard. At times, I do go to their compounds and make surveys, and I find out that a child has been traumatized. So I do advocate with the parents about how to implement the right things to do.
Also being an economist is my dream because I love economics, ever since I was in senior secondary school. I studied it and am still studying it. My dream is to have a master’s degree, and that is what I am working on right now.
I do not want a car or a house; I just want to finish my education with a master’s degree in economics.
Chickens provide nutritious meals through eggs and meat, and they also provide a way to make money. But what you’re about to see are no ordinary chickens – these are Twitter chickens, made possible by the first 2,200 ChildFund followers on Twitter back in July.
As part of the Twitter campaign, we promised to send items from our Gifts of Love and Hope catalog to areas that needed them the most – for every 200 followers to sign up during the campaign, a gift would be given from an anonymous donor, who was willing to contribute above the usual donation. One of those gifts was a set of chickens for a community in The Gambia.
For more on our work in The Gambia, click here.
More on The Gambia
Population: 1.7 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 544,000 children and families
Did You Know?: The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa. Senegal borders The Gambia to the north, east and south; the country has a small coast on the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
By David Hylton,
Public Relations Specialist
It has taken just a little longer than we anticipated, but the gifts for children and families in four African countries made possible by our Twitter campaign in July are in transit.
To give you a brief recap, the Twitter campaign worked like this: every 200 followers @ChildFund received during two weeks in July meant a gift from our Gifts of Love and Hope catalog to one of the countries. The gifts were made possible by an anonymous donor who went above their usual giving amount. You can read more about our campaign here.
When the campaign ended July 27, we had more than 2,200 followers, which meant 11 gifts. Two sets of chickens are now headed to a school in The Gambia; three goats are going to families in Zambia; three sets of 15 grafted mango trees will be planted in Kenya; and three sets of vegetable seeds will soon arrive in Ethiopia.
These donations are about much more than the actual item. Each item represents a livelihood for a family, income, responsibility, and, most importantly, an opportunity for a brighter future thanks to each of you.
Small video cameras have already been shipped to The Gambia and Zambia and we expect footage from those areas in the coming weeks. As the videos arrive back in our U.S. headquarters in Richmond, Va., we will share them with you. Due to delivery issues to remote parts of the world and technology issues with slow Internet connections in many areas where we work, getting information from our program areas takes time and patience from everyone involved.
Thanks to everyone for following and helping to change the lives of 11 children and their families.
For more information about ChildFund International, visit www.ChildFund.org.
By David Hylton,
Public Relations Specialist
Thank you, thank you, thank you! We can’t say it enough! On July 10 when we launched our Twitter campaign, we didn’t quite know what to expect. We knew we’d get a lot of new followers, but perhaps we underestimated the generosity of people out there. For everyone who lent a hand in this – THANK YOU!
As the campaign ended at noon today, we had more than 2,200 followers – that’s 11 gifts to help deprived, excluded and vulnerable children and families in The Gambia, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia. (For more information on the campaign and how it worked, click here to read our initial post and here when we reached 1,500 followers.)
Now that this campaign is over, what’s next? Thanks to anonymous donors who are going above their usual giving amount for this campaign, children and families will receive the following gifts:
• Chickens for a school in The Gambia
• A goat for a family farm in Zambia
• Mango trees in Kenya
• Vegetable seeds in Ethiopia
Over the next few days, we will ship the items to the program areas so they can be put to immediate use. During this process, we are working with ChildFund International employees in those countries to film video and take pictures so that you can see how following us on Twitter helped children living in poverty. It’s a commitment from us to hold an accountable dialogue with you.
We expect this process may take a couple of months to complete. Due to delivery issues to remote parts of the world and technology issues with slow Internet connections in many areas where we work, getting information from our program areas takes time and patience from everyone involved.
Now that the Twitter campaign is over, it certainly doesn’t mean that our presence there is disappearing. We’ll continue to post updates about ChildFund, answer questions followers may have, retweet others’ posts on topics we find relevant and much more. This campaign is only the beginning of our conversation.
Our Twitter campaign is drawing to a close – it will officially end at noon Monday, July 27 (by noon we mean on the East Coast in the U.S.). This campaign started July 10 as a way to bring awareness to the needs of children and families in four African countries. For every 200 followers @ChildFund receives, agricultural gifts will be given to families and children in The Gambia, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia from our Gifts of Love and Hope catalog.
So far we have more than 2,000 followers — that means 10 gifts to help children and families in those countries. These gifts are being made possible by donors giving above their usual amount.
We’d once again like to thank several blogs and followers on Twitter for bringing awareness to this campaign, in addition to ones we have already mentioned:
Once the campaign ends, we’ll send the gifts to the communities. We’re also sending small video cameras so we can share firsthand how these gifts make a difference in the lives of the individuals and the community. We want you to know that your efforts are leading to the well-being of the world. Continue to check back for additional details in the coming weeks.
For more information about ChildFund International, please visit www.ChildFund.org.
Follow us on Twitter and you can make the difference in the lives of children. Really. It’s that simple.
To celebrate our new name and our commitment to children, we’re giving agriculture gifts from our Gifts of Love and Hope catalog to children and families for every 200 Twitter followers we receive.
These efforts will directly benefit children in The Gambia, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia. There is no cap on followers, and the offer will continue through July 27. Each country has different needs so the gifts vary:
As part of the effort, ChildFund International is sending Flip video cameras to program offices in each of the four countries to report back. We’ll share the recipients’ stories and photos with you. We want to share how your efforts and these items benefit children and their communities. It is also a commitment not to simply promote, but to continue an accountable dialog with our supporters.
So come follow us. Tell your friends. Tell your friends’ friends. By simply following @ChildFund we can all make a difference in a child’s life.